Monday, June 23, 2014

summer(2014): book report #1

Every summer in high school, I had reading and writing assignments to complete. Sometimes I'd have a list of books I needed to have read by the first day of school, other times I'd have to write a history paper and send it in to the teacher by a certain date in July; summer before senior year, I was faced with both types of assignments. Though it was a bit tricky to comprehend a detailed account of the Civil War while surrounded by blaring whistles, screaming kids, and the reverberation of the nearest diving board and corresponding ker-splash of an unfortunate belly flop (what, you weren't a lifeguard too?), I didn't really mind having to work my way through a tower of books all summer long. With graduation, though, came end of my summer reading. I spent that summer before college (and a few summers after that) bathing in the glow of the newest Cosmo magazine and not much else. However, I eventually grew to miss what had previously been a huge part of my life - reading for pleasure. It took me until I moved to New York to really get back into the habit of regular reading (long subway rides proved to be the perfect vehicle to rekindle my love of literature...pun intended), and now with my iPad I can't even use the excuse that a particular book is too heavy to fit into my purse (don't roll your eyes. it's a harsh reality of life in the big city.)

I am always looking for book recommendations. It's probably a result of all those high school summers, but I can't resist a good reading list - so in case you're looking for a little reading inspiration yourself, below are some of my most recent favorite reads. Almost all are novels (though I desperately want to be, I'm just not a non-fiction kind of gal), and you've probably heard of or even read most of them. But just in case you haven't, why not give 'em a try this summer?

I Was Told There'd Be Cake and, How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley - I'm not normally a fan of essays or short stories, but each tale hits so close to home that these books could have easily been my own (more well-written) diary. Starting out as a struggling artist in New York. Traveling solo in Europe. Awkward presents from ex-boyfriends. If you want a beautifully funny patchwork of what it's like to be in your 20's in the 2000's, grab one or both of these books.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison - I got this book after picking up one of those free iTunes downloads at Starbucks one afternoon. I hadn't really even intended to read it (I don't usually put too much stock in free downloads) but after having nothing else to do on the train one day, I started it - and then couldn't put it down. I found myself absorbed in an anti-hero's odyssey and desperately wanting to be included in such an unlikely group of people's northwest road trip.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - this is a bizarre book about an even more bizarre childhood, but Lawson imbues so much humor and love into her story that you can't help get on board.

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti - truth be told, this book gets a bit long and lost in the narrative at times, and there are way too many footnotes for my liking. But it's evocative descriptions of rural Castile and dozens of passages devoted to the taste and smell of cheese may have you booking your next vacation to a tiny village in northern Spain.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - part mystery, part travelogue, part diary, and part satire, this book is that rare combination of comedy and page-turner that I thought about for weeks after finishing it.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead - this is a beautiful and unassuming story about a wedding weekend fraught with lust, envy, regret, and an exploding cetacean. You may grow to really dislike the family's patriarch, but you'll certainly want to stick around to see what happens.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed - the movie version is coming out this winter, so do yourself a favor and read the book first. If you're like me and think "hiking" is when you walk up a few stone stairs in Central Park, then let yourself get lost in the beautiful desolation of Strayed's solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - as the most recent winner of the Pulitzer prize for fiction, nearly as much has been said about this book as it is long. Clocking in at almost 800 pages, this tome takes you on an near-fantastical journey from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam as the protagonist tries to protect a stolen work of art and meets a dizzying cast of insolent and self-absorbed characters along the way. I could NOT put this book down.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman - set within Brooklyn's nouveau-lit community, reading this book was like reliving every date and dinner party I've been to in the past five years - not necessarily a pleasant experience, but since the novel is told from the point of view of the guy, an educational one.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer - while at times this novel had a Forrest Gump-like quality as it chronicled the lives of a group friends over the course of almost 40 years, it was a fascinating look at the development of the "me" generation as the narcissistic and self-absorbed teenagers struggled to find fulfilling careers and relationships.

Please note: the above are affiliate links, which may earn me a small commission if you click on them (but at no extra cost to you!) Regardless if I get paid or not, I still stand by my recommendations and hope you enjoy them too ;)

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